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People v. Thomas

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 7, 1980.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

BRUCE THOMAS, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. CHARLES P. CONNOR, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE STENGEL DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This is an appeal by the People of the State of Illinois (hereinafter State) from a ruling by the trial court suppressing statements made by the defendant, Bruce Thomas, to Joliet police officers. The evidence presented at the hearing on the motion to suppress established the following facts.

During the afternoon of October 12, 1978, the Joliet police department was notified by the DeKalb police department that an armed robbery had occurred at a service station in DeKalb. The DeKalb police department informed the Joliet police department that Gregory Austin of 309 Park Road, Joliet, was a suspect in the armed robbery and that the vehicle involved in the armed robbery was identified as a black-over-blue Chevrolet Malibu.

Detective Stewart, of the Joliet police department, checked the arrest records maintained by the department and ascertained that Gregory Austin was previously arrested on September 10, 1978, for the unlawful use of weapons. The police report of the incident indicated that the defendant was arrested with Austin and that the weapon involved was a sawed-off shotgun. The report also indicated that both men resided at 309 Park Road, Joliet, and that the defendant drove a 1970 green-over-green Pontiac Firebird.

Stewart then obtained photographs of Austin and the defendant. The photograph of Austin appeared similar to the depiction of a suspect in a Frankfort, Illinois, armed robbery, and the photograph of the defendant appeared similar to an artist's sketch of a suspect in four Palatine armed robberies. At this time, Stewart was aware of several armed robberies in the Palatine-Joliet area that involved a sawed-off shotgun. Other Joliet police officers were informed of the results of Stewart's investigation.

Between 8 and 10 p.m. on the same day, officers from the DeKalb police department arrived in Joliet to assist in the apprehension of Greg Austin. Several other Joliet officers had already been dispatched to various areas in the city of Joliet to look for Greg Austin. Shortly after the DeKalb police arrived at the Joliet police station, a black-over-blue Malibu was observed in a driveway at 309 Park Road. Upon receiving this information, Sergeant Robert Kelly, Detective Stewart and the DeKalb police proceeded to 309 Park Road, where Sergeant Kelly observed that the Malibu had a license-applied-for sticker in the windshield which bore the name of Greg Austin.

One of the arresting officers, Richard Baum, testified that Detective Stewart had instructed him to look for a green Pontiac Firebird. Baum was given the license plate number of the vehicle and was informed that about a month prior to October 12, 1978, a sawed-off shotgun had been found in the Pontiac. Other than this fact, Baum had no information that the green Pontiac was involved in an armed robbery.

Before leaving the police station, Baum was apprised of the message from the DeKalb police department, including the description of the black-over-blue Malibu involved in the DeKalb armed robbery and the fact that Greg Austin was named in that message. Also prior to leaving the station, Baum looked at the photograph of Greg Austin and was thus familiar with Austin's appearance.

After leaving the station, Baum received a radio transmission instructing him to go to the area of Washington Street and Park Road, approximately two blocks from the address of 309 South Park Road. Baum parked his squad car in a gas station driveway at Washington and Park Road. There, he observed two Will County sheriff's cars and noticed the officers were having difficulty finding a house that they were assigned to check out. Baum followed the county officers, pulled up behind them and gave them directions to the correct location. As Baum was giving them advice, the green Pontiac Firebird, described earlier by Detective Stewart, drove by. Baum informed the county officers that this was the suspect vehicle and the two Will County officers and Baum pursued the green Pontiac, stopping it about three blocks away.

With weapons drawn, Baum and the Will County officers ordered the occupants of the Firebird to get out of the car. The car contained two occupants, who after they stepped out of the car, were ordered up against the side of the car and were pat searched. The defendant, who had been the driver of the car, was handcuffed, as was Austin.

A short time later, Sergeant Kelly, Detective Stewart, and the DeKalb police officers arrived at the scene. One of the DeKalb officers indicated that they wanted only Austin and the defendant's handcuffs were removed. However, Sergeant Kelly then asked the defendant to accompany him to the police station. This was done for the purpose of questioning only, the police admitting they had no knowledge of any crime committed by the defendant. The defendant agreed to do so and rode to the station with Sergeant Kelly and Detective Stewart. The defendant was not handcuffed. The police officers testified that the defendant was not under arrest at this time.

At the police station, the defendant was questioned by Sergeant Kelly. He was asked if he knew anything about Austin's plan to commit the armed robbery in DeKalb. The defendant replied that he had no prior knowledge of the DeKalb armed robbery. Defendant was then asked if he was with Austin the last time. The defendant hung his head and replied that he had been with him. Sergeant Kelly then advised the defendant of his Miranda rights, and the defendant indicated that he understood them. The defendant then admitted to his involvement in the August 5, 1978, armed robbery of a Clark station in Joliet.

On October 13, 1978, at about 9 a.m., the defendant was again interviewed by Detectives Gerdes and Pesavente. The detectives advised the defendant of his Miranda rights, and he again indicated that he understood them. The interview occurred in the interview room of the county jail. The defendant again admitted his involvement in the August 5, 1978, armed robbery of the Clark station.

Based on these facts, the trial court suppressed the defendant's statements. The trial court, after finding that this defendant was under arrest at the time of the confessions and that no probable cause existed to arrest the defendant, reasoned that the initial questioning was so close in time to the illegal arrest as to be tainted thereby and that there was insufficient change ...


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